1. MUSEUM OF POP CULTURE
Better known as MoPOP, this family favorite occupies an undulating building in Seattle filled with fun exhibits focusing on everything from punk rock to video games to science fiction films.
2. ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM
The art at this Boston landmark—think Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Matisse, and Sargent—is impressive, but the museum’s location in a Venetian-style palazzo around a light-filled courtyard is equally enthralling. See masterpieces like Titian’s Europa and John Singer Sargent’s El Jaleo.
3. GETTY MUSEUM
No museum has a better location than the Getty, perched high on a hill overlooking Los Angeles. The modern architecture is stunning, the sculpture gardens are gorgeous, and the collection unequaled on the West Coast.
4. AMERICAN CIVIL WAR MUSEUM
In a former ironworks, this brilliantly realized space in Richmond, Virginia, tells the story of a pivotal time in American history: the War Between the States. The museum explores every angle imaginable, not just North and South.
5. BIRMINGHAM CIVIL RIGHTS INSTITUTE
Set beneath a breathtaking glass dome, this interpretive museum and research center in Birmingham, Alabama, tells the story of the ongoing struggle for racial equality in the United States and traces African Americans’ struggle for equality back to the 1800s.
6. GEORGIA O’KEEFFE MUSEUM
Her beloved city Santa Fe, New Mexico, hosts the only museum dedicated to groundbreaking painter Georgia O’Keeffe. The pueblo-style building is the perfect backdrop for her art.
7. NEGRO LEAGUES BASEBALL MUSEUM
A real game changer, this Kansas City, Missouri, museum chronicles the 100-year history of this historic league, formed in 1920 because players were banned from all-white teams.
8. UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MUSEUM
Washington, D.C., has dozens of museums, but none more powerful than this one telling the story of the millions murdered in World War II, and how survivors and descendants worked to change the world.
9. METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
You could take a week to explore this sprawling museum in New York City, which includes an Egyptian temple dating back 2,000 years and a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
10. 9/11 TRIBUTE MUSEUM
On the site of New York’s Twin Towers, which were felled in a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, this museum memorializes the event with home videos, news camera footage, and interviews with survivors.
11. ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO
It may contain modern must-sees like Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist and Grant Wood’s American Gothic, but the vast collection here spans many eras and cultures.